More than 2,000 inmates across the country sentenced to life in prison as juveniles are now eligible for new hearings.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that those prisoners can now receive new sentences and the possibility of parole.
The question turned on whether a 2012 decision striking down automatic life sentences for teens should be applied retroactively.
In a 6-3 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that teen offenders should have a chance to show that their crimes do not render them “irreparably” corrupt.
Advocates for the inmates, including the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, rejoiced after the decision.
“Today, the Supreme Court has recognized that justice must not depend on geography or the date on a calendar,” said Marsha Levick, the center’s deputy director and co-counsel on the case.
Pennsylvania has more “juvenile lifers” than any other state, with nearly 500 serving life sentences that began before they were 18. With more than 300, Philadelphia has more than any other city.
But Pennsylvania’s Victim Advocate, Jennifer Storm, said the ruling is troubling because it will open up old wounds for the families of victims.
“There’s a little bit of peace that our crime victims walk away from the criminal justice system with,” Storm said. “And, unfortunately, this takes that peace and it shatters it for all those victims.”